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Tattoos in the workplace

Date: 21st September 2016

tatts at workVisible tattoos and body piercings have turned into a hot topic in the media in recent days. The main question being: in 2016 should employers be more relaxed and less prejudiced against employing people with visible body modifications?

National media suggests that although younger generations find having tattoos and body piercings more acceptable - and in fact, they have almost become - a cultural norm - many employers in the UK still shy away from employing those of the population who sport body art.

Dr MountfordA story regarding (Ex- Apprentice star) Dr Margaret Mountford’s recent remarks to students at a school in Kent was published in The Sunday Times and quoted Dr Mountford as saying “They are a real problem for young people because there are swathes of the workplace where it is simply not appropriate to be greeted by a young person with a tattoo”

Dr Mountford (who was a lawyer before she retired and holds a Ph.D. in papyrology (the study of ancient papyrus!)) went on to say: “if you work in a hairdresser’s salon, people do not want to see a tattooed arm washing their hair, or in a restaurant serving them food. It is not hygienic”

While Dr. Mountford is entitled to her own personal opinion, many in what is referred to as the millennial generation would argue that these views are not only incorrect with regards to hygiene, but they are also all in all outdated and somewhat prejudiced.

tatt dr

It is now becoming more socially acceptable amongst young people to have visible tattoos and body piercings and there is a strong belief held by some in the world of business that employers may be at risk of missing out on talented candidates due to their bias against visible tattoos.

Stephen Williams, Head of quality at Acas was quoted recently as saying “whilst it remains a legitimate business decision, a dress code that restricts people with tattoos might mean that companies are missing out on talented workers”.

These recent reports prompted one Kent based newspaper ( to poll its readers as to whether having tattoos would damage their career- 53% of those who responded believed that it would.

Here at RBHR we urge you to take a look at your policies with regards to dress code and recruitment. Do these policies place restrictions on employers or potential employees with tattoos and body piercings? If so are these restrictions based on a business requirement or on possible prejudice and personal preference? Is there a chance that you are one of those employers that could be missing out on talented young candidates due to a pre-set bias? 

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